Saturday, June 2, 2012

Leone Class Scouts

Leone, Pantera, and Tigre were designed as scout cruisers (esploratori), essentially enlarged versions of contemporary destroyers. They were initially ordered in 1917, but postponed due to steel shortages, and re-ordered in 1920.
Each ship of the class carried, for its size, an extremely heavy armament of eight 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns, paired into four powered turrets on the centre line. While only two guns could aim directly fore or aft, the all-eight-gun broadside was not matched by any other destroyer-type ship until the American Porter class destroyers of 1936.
The ships were outfitted for colonial service, and by 1935 they were deployed in the naval base of Massawa, Eritrea. The ships were reclassified as destroyers in 1938 and fought in WWII, when the Italian entry in the war left Italian East Africa isolated from Italy.
 The only appreciable action in which the destroyers were involved was the attack on the Allied convoy BN 7, on the first hours of 21 October 1940. Leone and Pantera, along with the Nullo and Sauro, shelled the convoy and its escort, inflicting some splinter damage to the leading transport ship, and launched at least two torpedoes aimed at HMAS Yarra, which successfully dodged them. The attack was nevertheless repulsed by the cruiser HMS Leander, who fired 129 six-inch rounds on the Italian destroyers.
The destroyers remained at dock in Massawa until the very end of ground operations in East Africa. Their commander ordered them to steam out on 31 March 1940, for a naval bombardment against targets around the Suez canal, in a mission without return. Leone ran aground off Massawa, and was sunk by her sister ships. After being spotted and harassed by British aircraft, Pantera and Tigre reached the Arabian shores, where their crews scuttled them.

Artwork: Sandro Degiani

(Source: Wikipedia)


Pablo J. Álvarez said...

Very nice vessel. Thank for the history.

Lord K said...

My pleasure, dear friend.